Last week, Bucharest was the host of a conference organized by the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) concerning the Protection of Electronic Communications Infrastructure & Information Sharing.
Given the fact that one of ENISA’s main tasks is to collect and analyze the data on incidents and emerging risks and to provide expertise to the EU Commission and Member States in order to enhance the electronic and data infrastructure security, this workshop came as a result of a large number of internet and data transmission blackouts caused by cable cuts.
According to the figures presented by the organizers, an important part of the reported incidents were due to accidents occurred during public work excavations. In order to prevent such accidents, several Member States – Belgium, Denmark, France, UK, Netherlands and Sweden – have developed warning systems and instruments that help those that carry out such works to acknowledge the underground infrastructure in the area where the excavations are to be conducted. Through these tools, the owners of cables, pipes, etc. can inform the excavators if there is any underground infrastructure and its position in order to avoid interruptions or other damages.
The workshop in Bucharest which was attended by representatives from 20 Member States, presented the solutions found by Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark to address this problem.
Ledningskollen, the Swedish system, consists of a platform for dialogue between cable owners on one hand and public works providers on the other. Basically, before performing a public work, the excavator that is going to dig in a certain area, sends a notice to the owners of underground facilities that are in the system by requesting information on the position of cables that can be found in the targeted area. In the request it must be specified not only the area but also the depth of excavations, the type of relief in the digging and the period in which the works will be undertaken. The answer is only valid for 30 days and usually arrives in about 10 days after the request. In addition, the cable owners may decide, depending on the applicant, should they send a map or simply mark the areas of interest to them. The costs required to maintain this system arrive at 1.000.000 euros per year. Although Ledningskollen, as the platform proposed by Sweden is called, refers mainly to telephone and Internet cables, the same model could be applied in other types of infrastructure: such as water pipes or electricity cables. This integrated approach is being implemented in the Netherlands, where, due to the terrain, the buildings need massive concrete pillars to provide them stability.
If in Swedish, everything was created without regulation by the state being needed, in the Netherlands was adopted a law to prevent damages in case of underground workings, which considers the above mentioned pillars as well as gas and water pipes and electricity, internet or telephone cables. The owners of the underground infrastructures must offer the information to the government through the Dutch Kadaster, which creates and updates maps of the underground infrastructure. In the case of requests from those who perform public works, the exchange of information is carried out within 2 days, and the Dutch Government plans to develop an application that can show on site what type of infrastructure is located in the area.
As opposed to Sweden where the system was based on people joining voluntarily, the Dutch and Danish systems are regulated by the state, and the excavators must pay a fee for every solicitation they undertake. In the Netherlands, the fees are 21 euro per request while they depend on the surface of digging in Denmark. One of the things that the Danish regulator is hoping to improve is the responses. Because, at the moment, the answer must be transmitted within 5 days, but there is no provision in relation to its content and contributors pay regardless of the quality of response received.
These initiatives come in support of the 2007 INSPIRE Directive of the European Commission, which recommends Member States to create a digital map that allows storing, analyzing and distributing spatial information public utility that may affect the environment or security of critical infrastructure.